Foreign Minister Olta Xhaçka stated that Albania has met the conditions to start negotiations with the European Union.
During her speech in the Assembly today, Xhaçka said that it is the turn of the EU to speak, emphasizing that there is no room for new conditions.
“The good news is that I am not the only one saying this, Albania, but also the member states. During this year, the process will not be delayed once with 5 conditions or 15. Albania has met the 15 conditions and this would jeopardize the credibility of the EU. “
These conditions, totaling 15 had been repeatedly denied by Prime Minister Edi Rama until quite recently. They included: electoral reform, the functioning of the Constitutional Court and High Court, the functioning of SPAK, strengthening the fight against corruption, organized crime, and financial crime, and the continuation of the justice reform.
A decision on the legality of the 2019 local elections was also included. This has not yet been decided on by the newly-functioning Constitutional Court, therefore it’s not satisfied. The review of the media law in line with Venice Commission recommendations was also required- this has not yet happened. Also, the report fails to acknowledge the worsening media climate in Albania in terms of political pressure, verbal attacks by Rama himself, lack of transparency, poor freedom of information response rates, and bad working conditions.
There are also ongoing concerns over property registration laws, bylaws on national minorities, amendments to the census law, and the implementation of electoral reform.
In the progress report published in October 2020, several issues appear to have been glossed over. For example, in the fight against organized crime, there was no mention of the issue in-country and the export of cannabis cultivation into Europe. Furthermore, there was no mention of the lack of investigations and convictions of senior officials for corruption, or recent government corruption scandals.
The condition regarding the investigation and prosecution of senior officials involved in vote-buying in two elections was also strangely omitted completely from the progress report, despite being one of the 15 conditions. This has not been met and while some court cases are ongoing, senior socialist party MPs and officials have not been charged.
Three Members of the European Parliament have asked the European Commission on the reasons why it has excluded one of the European Council’s conditions for Albania’s start of EU accession talks, namely the “initiation of proceedings against those accused of vote-buying.”
This has not yet been answered and the EU Delegation in Tirana was unable to comment until European Parliament had as a matter of precedent.
In January, MEP Michael Gahler stated that the Albanian government has violated the June 5 agreement and has not met some of the conditions for the opening of negotiations with the EU.
Rama claimed that Gahler’s statements are “inconceivable nonsense, rubbish produced in Albania” and “biased misinformation and manipulation” of the public.